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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Recent Reads: A Few Autobiographies

Spelling It Like It Is 

I have said this before, but I was not a Tori Spelling fan until I picked up her first book.  I really enjoy her writing style, and I often feel that we would be besties in some other world that involved me being born into a drama-filled Hollywood family .  She leads a very interesting and active life, which has given her lots of juicy stories to share.  She isn't afraid to name drop (in an entertaining way) and tell all when it comes to her celebrity acquaintances.  This book also takes you through her third and fourth pregnancies, many animal acquisitions, and lots of bad real estate decisions.  It really helped me understand how someone that seems to be making so much money is complaining about being so broke all of the time (and hawking her jewelry line on QVC at 3am).

Somehow, Tori is very relatable, even if her problems aren't the same as everyone else's.  She always seems to be searching for a tv sitcom kind of normal that she believes she will find with her next home purchase and a mini-farm, but never seems to come.  With the recent headlines about her husband cheating and a new reality series following the aftermath on the horizon, you may find this book to be an interesting window into how she ended up where she is now.  I give this book 3.5 stars.  It isn't the best she has written, but if you are a fan of her previous three books, this will give you more of the same.

Melissa Explains It All

Growing up, I was a huge fan of Clarissa Explains It All.  Since I do enjoy reading autobiographies, I though I would give this book a whirl.  I have to say, I do not think Melissa Joan Hart and I would be besties.  The book begins with her childhood, and takes us through her life to present.  She shares a tiny bit of dirt about who was a good kisser or who she did not enjoy working with, but it wasn't interesting.  The overall tone of the book was rather dry.  At times, it felt a bit like it was a venue for her to brag about her accomplishments and drop names of people that she had worked with.  It is all very impressive, but she does not come across as relatable.

While I do admire how together she is for a former child star, she is not particularly likeable. Maybe it was the way in which she related the stories, or just that celebrities who live drama-filled lives (see above) have much better stories to tell.  I give this book 2 stars.  It is worth the read if you are a fan, but there will be no mind-blowing backstage secrets revealed here.  I did not want to get a cocktail with her and beg her to tell me more.  However, if you want a detailed account of all of her works, from stage to screen, you might find this book enjoyable.


I am currently reading the third book in the Divergent trilogy.  I will have a review of the series soon.  What are you currently reading?  I am always looking for y next book.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Recently, one of my friends told me about #100HappyDays.  I turned her on to The Happiness Project books, and she knew that this kind of challenge would be right up my alley.  The premise here is that you to submit a picture of what makes you happy for 100 straight days.  It doesn't mean that you have to be happy all day, every day.  Just that you find something that made your day brighter and document it.

I am always trying to make myself slow down and savor the good stuff, so I thought this would be a fun undertaking.  Will I be able to keep this up for 100 days straight?  I don't know, but I am  really going to try.  Do any of you want to do this with me?  You can help keep me honest.  It is guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

Here are the photos from my first 9 days, in no particular order.

The smell right after a rain storm.

One of my favorite times of the year, time to plant.

Free coffee

My Easter deer

The smell of orange blossoms that have been filling the air all around me.

The rare occasion where my name is spelled correctly (and a green tea latte).

Working from home, with my three best friends at my feet.

Getting the best text message I could ask for.

My frog in a log (his head is poking out of the top).

Comment with your Instagram name if you are going to give this a try.
  If you want to follow along with me: @iluvpugz 
Look for #100happydays

Monday, April 7, 2014

Spring Swap 2014

 Katie from Tomorrow With A Smile and Stormy from Life's A Dance recently hosted a spring package swap.  This was my 4th year participating, and I got a really terrific partner.  I was paired with Brandi from Raising Kid Clammy.  I enjoyed reading her blog and exchanging emails with her to learn what she liked (you can pop over there and see what was in her box).  Then I got to shop.  I love sending these package as much as receiving them, and this was no exception.

I am always stoked to receive fun mail, and let's face it, I mostly get junk and bills.  When my husband told me I had a package waiting for me at home, the work day seemed like it would never end. It finally did.  Just an hour and fifteen minutes worth of traffic later, there I was, box cutter in hand, filled with the anticipation of what was inside.  Here is a peek. 

I love scented candles.  I had been hearing so much about the Target red velvet cupcake candle that has been sweeping the vlogging world, and I was so excited to receive this.  It smells as amazing as it sounds (and so does the French vanilla candle next to it).

Sour candy is my absolutely favorite.  It is also my husband's favorite, and these bags disappeared shortly after this picture was taken.  

Adorable note cards and matching pens.

Two lovely new shades of nail polish to try out.

And finally, this adorable pug card and a treat for my pups.

Meatball loves the way it squeaks.

Thank you, Brandi!  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Star Wars: Where Sciene Meets Imagination at the Tech Mueseum

If you guys follow me on Instagram, you probably know that I love all things Star Wars related.  The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose recently had an exhibit featuring costumes and props used in the series.  My husband and I took a drive down there on one of the last weekends before the exhibit closed.  Along with the props and costumes, there was also a Millennium Falcon flight simulator and labs where you could play with robotics and technology from the movie.  There is also a larger museum outside of this one exhibit, with lots of hand-on exhibits (great for kids).  There was no flash photography allowed, so these pictures were all taken with my iPhone (which does better than my DSLR in the dark).  

These are the real deal Han Solo and Bobo Fett costumes.  Harrison Ford was a very slender man back in the day.

X-Wing Starfighter

The wampas from the ice planet Hoth, definitely a fan favorite

Millennium Falcon


These guys used to scare me when I was a kid.

Of course, I had to get a picture of the big guy!!


Jedi Robes (Anakin and Obi-Wan)


Droids (R2D2 and C3PO)

Padme Amidala

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

St. Paddy's Day At Home

This year, I wanted to hang out at home and have a nice relaxing St. Patrick's Day.  My husband and I took the day off, slept in, and spent a lot of time in our garden.  We didn't have to deal with rush hour traffic (and our typical hour long commutes home) so we had plenty of time to play with some new recipes.  

Our most important purchase was the alcohol.  Not just for drinking, but for baking. 
 *Note: No hangovers were incurred during the making of this blog post.  

I found a recipe for Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, and decided to give it a shot.  They didn't turn out so pretty (they didn't rise as much as I thought they would), but they were delicious.  

And since we already had the ingredients, we decided to make an Irish Car Bomb cocktail (or two several).  You have to drink these quickly (as soon as you drop in the shot glass) or the Bailey's will curdle.  I admit that my first attempt was a little rough, but practice make perfect (and my second attempt was flawless). 

Finally, we have come the main course, crusted fresh herbed rack of lamb with potato leek gratin and roasted garlic sauce.  It was rich.  It was decadent.  It was pure heaven.  The only down side was that my fingers still smell a little garlicky this morning from peeling all 20 cloves.  It was so worth it though.

I hope everyone had a nice St. Patrick's Day.  Do you have recipes you enjoy making for the holiday?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

My So-Called Instagram Life

A new favorite quote, discovered on Instagram.

Some new discoveries at Trader Joes.  The dried kimchi was awesome.  I am still trying to find a way to successfully use the black garlic.  So far, it has been a bust.

Did I mention that my frog Irving has a betta tankmate named Floki?

I originally purchased this deer head for the holidays, but I think he is here to stay (at least for now).

I was pretty excited about these.  They were good, but the Rice Crispies Treat version is even better.

This is where Petunia sits while I blog.

 I tried a flight of sangria at dinner with friends.  Because who can say no to sangria?

Another brilliant interpretation of my name.

Irving's wife, Hazel.

The night Petunia discovered the frog tank.

A beautiful sunset over San Francisco Bay.

Petunia, with a mile a tongue on my leg.

My sweet Harriet is such a happy girl.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Few Books By Lauren Oliver

Wow, it has been a long time since I have posted about anything I have read (and lately, I have been reading a lot).  Recently, I went through a phase where I was picking up anything by Lauren Oliver that was available on audible.com.  I really enjoyed her writing style and found myself getting lost in the worlds she created.  Here are some of my thoughts about her novels.  Have you read any of these books?

Before I Fall 
This is the first book I read by Lauren Oliver.  I wanted to dip my toe into the pool before I went swimming with her Delirium trilogy.  This book begins at the end, which captivated me right away.  It is about a girl named Samantha Kingston, who is a popular mean girl.  She seems to have it all, and then she dies.  She must go back and relive her final day over, until she finally gets it right (think Groundhog Day set in high school).  Each time she relives the day, she learns more about herself and the secrets of her classmates.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  It was really well-written, and brought me back to my high school days.  Everyone knew a girl like Samantha, so completely oblivious as to how her actions affect the lives of others.  As she goes through this growing process, you keep hoping that her ending will change, that she can learn how to save herself.  As the story develops, it becomes clear that sacrifice is essential in order to right your past transgressions.  I definitely shed a tear or two at the end.

I am a big fan of young adult dystopian novels, and this trilogy kept popping up on my audible.com reading list.  The premise here is that in a not-so-distant future, love is declared a disease that must be eradicated.  A procedure is done to teenagers, once they hit 18, that "cures" them of ever feeling this emotion and contracting the disease known as amor deliria nervosa. Anyone who is of age and has not had this procedure is considered to be an invalid.

Lena, the main character, has been looking forward to her procedure since she was a child.  She was happy to let the government pick out her future mate and decide what is best for her.  Then she meets an invalid named Alex, and she becomes infected.  She must choose to do either what society expects, or what her heart is telling her is right.

I love the premise here. If you think about a world without love, the impact reaches far beyond two people falling for each other. For example, how does a parent feel about his/her children? For this reason, this book was my favorite of the trilogy. The ending of this book definitely leaves you wanting to start the next book immediately.   I give the whole series four and a half stars.

This was the second book in the Delirium trilogy.  I will try not to give away too many spoilers here, but it is a bit difficult if you haven't already read the first novel.  Here, we pick up with Lena immediately after the events in the first book.  She is half-dead and going it alone in the Wilds, without the help of her beloved Alex.  The book goes back and forth between her time immediately after running away, where she is learning how to survive with the help of other invalids, and her new life as part of the Resistance in New York City, where she is infiltrating a group called the DFA (Delirium Free America) in order to try to restore society back to its original state.

Midway through this book, Lena is kidnapped along with Julian Fineman, who is the face of the DFA's youth division.  Together, they must learn how to survive their captivity.  Lena infects Julian with the deliria, and she has to decide if she can forget about Alex, and return his feelings.  This novel ends with an exciting (and much anticipated) cliff-hanger that made me immediately pick up the third book in this series.

Requiem  (warning, possible spoilers ahead)

Requiem picks up where Pandemonium left off.  However, now Lena is in the Wilds with both Alex and Julian, who are all part of the Resistance, trying to restore America to its former state.  This book is much different from the first two in that it tells the story not only from Lena's point of view, but also from her best friend Hana's point of view, alternating by chapter.  We hadn't heard from Hana since Delirium, and it was interesting to learn what she had been up to since receiving the cure, including more about the man she is supposed to marry. Interestingly enough, she has a few secrets of her own and some reparations to make to Lena.

This was my second favorite book in the series, and wrapped up all of the plotlines in interesting ways.  Some characters die.  Some of the plotlines are left open ended.  We leave the story still in the midst of a revolution, and have to wish the characters the best for their future.  I don't see how this book could have ended any other way that would have been satisfying.  Sometimes not tying up everything is a tidy little package is the best way to leave things.

Lauren Oliver has a new book coming out in March called Panic, which I hope to pick up and review soon.
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